BATTLE OF THE TITANS - Bands gear up for a titanic battle at the Royal Albert Hall

Issue 6016

COMPOSERS' CORNER - Dr Liz Lane looks at the subject of  networking 

HERE IS THE NEWS - Looking back at the Daily Herald's Nationals sponsorship

Dyke set the standard for upcoming Stoller Hall contest

Friday 24 May, 2019

Sunday afternoon always seems to be a good - perhaps even traditional time - for a concert, and when the Black Dyke name is involved, you know there’ll be an audience draw and something special. Having seen them locally a few weeks ago (Stroud Subscription Rooms), a second time opportunity at this Best of Brass concert, an entrepreneurial series by, was welcome - a different programme but equally as vibrant! Not only was it being filmed for broadcast later in the month, but four students from the University of the West of England Computer Science and Creative Technology department were visiting to undertake a test run of an exciting future virtual reality project in collaboration with - more news later - who had never seen a brass band in concert, let alone one of such calibre.

Introduced by Brass Pass Managing Director Martin Gernon, the band and Music Director Prof. Nicholas Childs took to the stage, their uniforms contrasting beautifully with the warm wood surrounding this most magnificent and welcoming concert hall, built two years ago with charitable donations.

The fine acoustics were immediately apparent from the opening notes of Abraham 'Abe' Holzmann’s iconic march Blaze Away, followed by the mellow depth of lower brass at the beginning of Verdi’s overture Nabucco, leading into equally impressive clarity of upper resister and full band.

The first soloist, Richard Marshall, demonstrated why he holds - as Nick Childs put it - the “hottest seat in banding” in Terry Camsey’s Melody of the Heart. A shift of choreography took us into a medley from Karl Jenkins’s The Armed Man - A Mass for Peace, a work that transcribes so well to the genre, in particular the emotive Benedictus featuring Zoe Lovatt-Cooper (flugel) and Daniel Thomas (euphonium). A change of atmosphere featured an exquisite rendition from Katrina Marzella of Alone with my Thoughts, a Scottish melody by Erik Spence in memory of a family friend who was killed during the Falklands War, arranged by her husband, Brenden Wheeler, and taken from her acclaimed second solo CD, Spotlight.

Peter Graham’s To Boldly Go completed the first half; commissioned by the Melbourne Staff Band in celebration of the band’s 125th Anniversary in 2015 and featuring Salvationist songs I'll go in the strength of the Lord (Turney and Bosanko) and I'll not turn back (Gowans and Larsson). Such exquisite pianissimo in the slow section was a moment worth paying an entrance fee for alone - the individual and collective breaths of the band lending an extra dimension to an exquisite timbre. As the band opened up into full Black Dyke sound, it enveloped the hall with richness.

The resounding fanfares of Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s Walking with Heroes heralded the second half, again with a change of seating arrangement, this time featuring basses in the front row, followed by Bacchanale from Saint-Saëns’ opera Samson and Delilah, again taking the band into full classic flight. The first ’Soloist Showcase’ featured Roy Newsome’s Bass in the Ballroom with Gavin Saynor (Eb tuba), one of the band’s newest members, showcasing a stylistic dynamic range. Second was Siobhan Bates, whose dulcet tones in Philip Harper’s A Celtic Promise demonstrated why she was the inaugural winner of the 2019 Young Brass Award. Rounding off the trio was Daniel Thomas with Peter Graham’s 'fantasy variation' Bravura, stunning the audience by the brilliance of his unassuming technique and lyrical musicianship.

The Black Dyke big band set again featured a choreographic change with cornets hugging the band from the outer semi-circle, and included the warm tones of Adam Reed (bass trombone) in Wonderful World and driving rhythms of Matt Rigg (drum kit) in the iconic Sing, Sing, Sing. Respighi’s Pines of Rome, described by Nick Childs as “one of the biggest and most tumultuous crescendos music can create” could have blown the roof off with less subtle direction and performance - but again demonstrated the band’s musical class and what an excellent venue this is for the genre. Highland Cathedral, featuring the euphonium duet of Daniel Thomas and John French, along with two snare drums out the front, brought the afternoon to a lyrical and dramatic close.


This was Black Dyke on fine form in one of the country’s newest concert halls, which will shortly herald the very first Brass Pass UK Band of the Year contest on 22 June 2019 - sold out but being streamed on live.


And the UWE Bristol students’ reaction to their first ever brass band concert? - “literally breathtaking - the emotion and power… just wow!”